There is no longer any reason to exclude international aviation and shipping emissions from carbon budgets according to the Committee on Climate Change. This was the conclusion in the Committee’s report “Scope of carbon budgets – Statutory advice on inclusion of international aviation and shipping”.
Emissions from international aviation and shipping were initially left out of carbon budgets and the 2050 target when the Climate Change Act became Law in 2008, with the decision on inclusion delayed to 2012.
In the meantime, the Committee and the Government have acted as though international aviation and shipping emissions are in the 2050 target, based on a certain interpretation of the legislation. The risk is that a new Government would not adopt the same interpretation.
In order to mitigate this risk, the Committee recommends that the current approach should be formalised through including international aviation and shipping emissions in carbon budgets and the 2050 target, therefore providing more certainty that it will be continued in future. Moreover, inclusion would provide the most transparent, comprehensive and flexible accounting framework under the Climate Change Act.
To implement the new approach the Committee recommends that currently legislated budgets are increased to allow for international aviation and shipping emissions:
International aviation emissions should be added to currently legislated budgets budgets based on the UK share of the EU ETS cap (i.e. 31 MtCO2e per year).
International shipping emissions should be added at around 9 MtCO2e per year, based on a projection of UK emissions which reflects current international policy (i.e. the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) adopted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)).
The implication of inclusion on this basis is that there would be no new commitments or costs in aviation, shipping or other sectors of the economy. For example, commitments and costs relating to aviation have already been made in the EU context, and would simply be reflected in carbon budgets.
The Committee’s report also shows how a 2050 target including aviation and shipping emissions could be achieved, building on its own previous work and that of the Government in the November 2011 Carbon Plan.
The analysis in the report reinforces other studies which suggest the 2050 target can be achieved at a cost of 1-2% of GDP. This cost was previously accepted by Parliament when the Climate Change Act was first legislated, given the much higher costs and consequences from not acting to reduce emissions.
The long-term emissions pathways in the report highlight the need for deep cuts in emissions from the power, surface transport, and buildings sectors. They justify the current policy approach which is aimed at developing and deploying a range of low-carbon power technologies (i.e. nuclear, renewables, CCS), improving energy efficiency in buildings and supporting renewable heat investment, improving fuel efficiency of conventional vehicles and catalysing development of the electric vehicle market.
On the long-term path for aviation emissions, the Committee recommends that the aim should be for emissions in 2050 that are no higher than 2005 levels. Given scope for increased fuel and carbon efficiency of flying, this would allow some demand growth over the next four decades. The Committee suggests that this path should be delivered through EU and global policies rather than a unilateral UK approach, in order to avoid competitiveness impacts that could otherwise ensue.
Lord Adair Turner, Chair of the CCC said:
“Including international aviation and shipping emissions in UK carbon budgets has an importance which goes beyond the specific issue of international aviation and shipping. This report makes a recommendation which, if now accepted by government and Parliament, will complete the UK statutory framework.”